The Beginning of Lent by Bob Wickizer

The Beginning of Lent
Bob Wickizer
2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9

Philips Brooks the former rector of Trinity Church in Copley Square Boston and the author of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" preached on today's text in 1910. His sermon ran twelve pages. It was a good sermon even if it took him an hour to deliver it. Now you can be thankful that my sermons are only two pages.

Have you ever watched one of those television programs where someone does something really stupid or even dangerous and the narrator tells you a moment later "Kids don't try this at home." This section of our Gospel from Mark needs that kind of warning because today's reading is part of a series of little stories arranged in the order of: 1. Jesus or someone else reveals the identity of Jesus, 2. Jesus then foretells his death and resurrection, 3. The disciples immediately get into a power struggle arguing among themselves. When I stand back and look at how this part of the Gospel is arranged I want to slap a big red label across the page warning "Kids, adults, Christians; don't do this."

Of course the Gospel is a story of how the disciples constantly fail to understand who Jesus is, what Jesus is doing or why they are even with him. The disciples will argue and miss the point all the way until the women return to them from the empty tomb.

In fact the very next verse after the Gospel today says that the disciples "kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean." Aren't we more like the disciples than the women who seemed to understand the terrible and wonderful truth about Jesus all along?

Just before today's Gospel, Jesus asks the famous question "Who do you say that I am?" to which Peter responds in a flash of inspiration, "You are the messiah." Jesus commands the disciples sternly not to tell anyone about him. In the same way our story today ends with Peter, James and John coming down the mountain ...


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